What does the social sector need to thrive?
The social sector needs: (1) support for its sustainability, (2) opportunities for learning, (3) strong relationships, and (4) influence.
Many in the infrastructure provide services and supports in more than one of these areas, and some of these areas build on and overlap with others, illustrating the interdependency of the social sector infrastructure ecosystem.
The examples of infrastructure activities and national providers below give a sense of the breadth and diversity of the infrastructure. The national providers represent those in the social sector, for-profit businesses, and public sector agencies. Inclusion as a provider does not indicate an endorsement of quality.
Supports and services that advance the sector’s sustainability are critical for its formation, functioning, and survival.
These resources make it possible for social sector entities to work toward their missions.Examples:
These services help social sector entities develop and strengthen their purpose and people.Examples:
These services help social sector entities with administrative needs.Examples:
Supports and services that facilitate learning are critical for the growth, development, and reputation of the social sector.
These services help prepare people for their roles in the social sector.Examples:
These services involve creating, gathering, and presenting information relevant to the social sector.Examples:
These services involve sharing information widely in and outside the social sector.Examples:
Supports and services that build relationships are critical for cultivating connections and strengthening bonds of shared values and interests in and outside of the social sector.
These bring people in the social sector together to share experiences and knowledge and advance a common purpose.Examples:
These connect organizations, groups, and people in the social sector.Examples:
These services help people grow by learning from the experiences of others in the social sector.Examples:
Supports and services that increase influence are important for broadening awareness about the social sector and ensuring its presence and voice throughout society, including in shaping public and private sector activity.
These services help the social sector convey ideas to persuade others in and outside the sector.Examples:
This involves individual and community actions to identify and address issues of interest to the social sector and our broader society.Examples:
This involves efforts to increase the social sector’s influence over government, corporate, and other policies.Examples:
Inclusion as a provider does not indicate an endorsement of quality.
This interactive graphic of the constantly evolving social sector infrastructure was produced by the Urban Institute and George Mason University in 2021 and 2022.
- Research Laura Tomasko, Faith Mitchell, Alan Abramson, Benjamin Soskis, Hannah Martin, and Kristen Kinneberg
- Design and Development Mobility Labs
- Editing Zach VeShancey
We would also like to thank Elizabeth Boris and Jesse Lecy for serving as senior advisors to this project, and Ren MacLean, Tanvi Punja, and Adam Goudjil for initial research assistance.
About This Project
This project is funded by New Venture Fund. We are grateful to them and to all our funders.
We appreciate the guidance we received from members of the Urban/GMU Social Sector Infrastructure Advisory Committee and the New Venture Fund–hosted Infrastructure Research Collaborative, a coordinated effort of funders and practitioners that supports our efforts to better understand the country’s social sector infrastructure.
To see a list of advisors, learn more about this project, and read publications associated with this study, see our project page.